In addition to introducing several totally new features DBL 10.1 also includes enhancements to the client portion of the HTTP API. These enhancements make the API significantly easier to use, and also make it possible to achieve things that were not previously possible.
Since the HTTP API was introduced in DBL 7.5 the client part of the API consisted of two routines. These routines are HTTP_CLIENT_GET and HTTP_CLIENT_POST. As suggested by their names these routines allowed you to issue GET and POST requests to an HTTP server. A GET request is a simple request to a server in which a URI is sent to the server and a response (which may include data) comes back. A POST request is slightly different in that in addition to the URI, additional data may also be sent to the server in the body of the HTTP request.
When dealing with an HTTP server it isn’t always possible to pre-determine the amount of data to be sent to the server, and it’s certainly not possible to know how much data will come back from the server for any given request. So in order to implement the HTTP API it was necessary to have a mechanism to deal with variable length data of any size, and at that time the only solution was to use dynamic memory.
Using dynamic memory worked fine, any data to be sent to the HTTP server as part of a POST request was placed into dynamic memory and the memory handle passed to the API, and any data returned from a GET or POST request was placed into dynamic memory by the API and the handle returned to the application. Dealing with variable length strings using dynamic memory isn’t particularly hard, but the fact of the matter is that while only a single line of code is required to perform an HTTP GET or POST, typically several lines of code were required in order to marshal data into and out of memory handles.
When the System.String class was introduced in DBL 9.1, so was the opportunity to simplify the use of the HTTP API, and that became a reality in DBL 10.1.
In order to maintain compatibility with existing code the HTTP_CLIENT_GET and HTTP_CLIENT_POST routines remain unchanged, but they are joined by two new siblings named HTTP_GET and HTTP_POST. These routines are similar to the original routines, essentially performing the same task, but they are easier to use because they use string objects instead of dynamic memory. And because the string class has a length property it is no longer necessary to pass separate parameters to indicate the length of the data being sent, or to determine the length of the data that was received. String objects are also used when passing and receiving HTTP headers.
So the new HTTP_GET and HTTP_POST routines make the HTTP API easier to use, but there is a second part to this story, so read on.
One of the primary use cases for the HTTP API is to implement code that interacts with Web Services, and in recent years a new flavor of Web Services called REST Services (REST stands for Representational State Transfer) has become popular. With traditional Web Services all requests were typically sent to the server via either an HTTP GET or POST request, but with REST Services two additional HTTP methods are typically used; the HTTP PUT and DELETE methods.
Many of you will be familiar with the term “CRUD” which stands for “Create, Read, Update and Delete”. Of course these are four operations that commonly occur in software applications. The code that we write often creates, reads, updates or deletes something. When designing traditional Web Services we would often indicate the type of operation via a parameter to a method, or perhaps even implement a separate method for each of these operations. With REST based web services however, the type of operation (create, read, update or delete) is indicated by the type of HTTP request used (PUT, GET, POST or DELETE).
To enable DBL developers to use the HTTP API to interact with REST services an extension to the HTTP API was required, and DBL 10.1 delivers that enhancement in the form of another two new routines capable of performing HTTP PUT and DELETE requests. As you can probably guess the names of these two new routines are HTTP_PUT and HTTP_DELETE. And of course, in order to make these new routines easy to use, they also use string parameters where variable length data is being passed or received.
You can find much more information about the HTTP API in the DBL Language Reference Manual, which of course you can also find on-line at http://docs.synergyde.com. In fact, if you’re feeling really adventurous you could try Googling something like “Synergy DBL HTTP_PUT”.